Sunday 17 January 2021

UAE’s Etihad Airways makes first known flight to Occupied Palestine amid normalization attempts

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s state-owned Etihad Airways has made a first known flight to the Israeli-Occupied Territories with the alleged goal of delivering aid to Palestinians as Arab regimes and Tel Aviv scale up their attempts to normalize relations.

Ethihad, the flag carrier of the UAE, sent a cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on May 19 to “provide medical supplies to the Palestinians” amid a coronavirus outbreak, the airline told the Associated Press.

There were no passengers on board the commercial plane, it added.

The Israel Airports Authority also confirmed the flight’s landing at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday night. 

An Israeli official, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the flight was coordinated with the Tel Aviv regime and similarly claimed it would be delivering humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

Footage showed crew at Ben Gurion Airport offloading stacks of cardboard boxes with large banners over them reading, “UAE AID: for Palestine to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).”

The Palestinian Authority officials did not comment on the flight, while Gaza’s health officials said they had no knowledge of any aid shipment from Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, the office of the UN Special Coordinator for West Asia Peace Process said that it had coordinated a 16-ton shipment of “urgent medical supplies” from the UAE to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Palestinian territories.

However, it was not immediately clear whether the Palestine-bound aid supplies had been transported on the Etihad cargo flight.

Israel and the UAE do not have formal diplomatic relations, but have long had clandestine contacts, according to widespread reports.

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